Royal Dutch Shell launched an extraordinary preemptive legal strike Wednesday against opponents of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, filing suit against more than a dozen environmental organizations likely to challenge its plan for drilling exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea this summer.If this suit is successful it will become a model for every other company facing environmental opposition.
In a petition for declaratory relief filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, the oil giant seeks to have the court rule that the U.S. government complied with federal law when it approved Shell’s oil spill response plan for upcoming exploratory well-drilling in the Arctic.
The move is a clear attempt to beat environmental organizations to court and avert potentially costly delays for a project on which Shell has already spent $4 billion without drilling a single well.
The oil company launched a separate petition against Greenpeace, whose activists last week boarded the drilling rig now moored in New Zealand and scheduled to begin drilling in the Arctic in July. Six activists, including television actress Lucy Lawless, climbed the rig before being arrested.
A hearing was underway Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Anchorage on the company’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting Greenpeace from engaging in “illegal and dangerous actions” tied to the upcoming offshore drilling program.
“This is a very unique legal approach. I’m not sure anything like this has ever been done before,” Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh told the Los Angeles Times.
Of course they could also do what the French did with Greenpeace some years ago - they sank their boat. That works too.